This story was last updated at 7:10 p.m. on Thursday, February 18. We’ll continue to regularly update it. Any new information will be added below and included in our daily newsletter.
Latest: In Mecklenburg County and statewide the percentage of positive cases is under 10%.
Why it matters: After weeks of setting new record highs for new daily cases and hospitalizations, the improvement in COVID trends is encouraging.
- Statewide the percentage of positive cases is 6.2% and COVID hospitalizations have dropped under 2,000 for the first time since November.
- Over the last two weeks in Mecklenburg County the percentage of positive cases has dropped to 9.1% and 286 people have been hospitalized.
Educators and childcare personnel will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting on February 24. On March 10, all frontline essential workers in Group 3 can get vaccinated.
- Earlier this month Governor Cooper called for schools to reopen for in-person learning. The vaccine priority change came after teachers around the state called on the governor to give them access to the vaccine as in-person learning resumes.
Zoom in: Previously, Cooper advised local school districts to make remote learning decisions based on community spread. Now, he says, the science shows students can return safely even in places with high rates of coronavirus community spread. [Go deeper]
Yes, but: Vaccine supply is still limited. “Just because folks become eligible on February 24, that does not mean that’s the day you’re going to get an appointment,” NCDHHS secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a February 10 briefing.
- Cohen says the federal government has been slowly increasing the state’s vaccine supply.
Cooper extended the statewide 10 p.m. curfew until at least Feb. 28. During a late January briefing, he also extended:
- The current stay at home order, which limits mass gatherings and business capacity.
- The moratorium on evictions.
- The sale of cocktails to-go (until March 31).
The governor said there will be a new executive order next week regarding loosening certain business restrictions — including allowing some spectators at sporting events.
Mecklenburg County health director Gibbie Harris extended her directive asking people to stay home for three weeks. It’s intended to “protect residents from COVID-19.” The modified directive supports in-person learning for students, which could lead to a return to the classroom for CMS. [Go deeper]
- “While our metrics have improved over the three weeks that the directive has been in place, the number of cases, hospitalizations and positivity rate remain high,” Harris said in a release.
People should, among other actions:
- Only leave home for essential activities like grocery shopping.
- Avoid gathering with people outside their immediate household.
- Use virtual options for work.
County- and statewide, the demand for coronavirus vaccines continues to outpace the current supply.
- To speed up vaccinations, Atrium and Novant Health each have separately announced partnerships with local corporations to open vaccination sites around the state, with a goal to administer a combined 2 million vaccinations by summer. [Go deeper]
The vaccine is being distributed to groups ordered by priority. Here’s what the state’s priority groupings look like:
- Group 1: Long-term care staff and residents, and health care workers with in-person patient contact.
- Group 2: Anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation.
- Group 3: Frontline essential workers. This group includes workers who are in sectors “essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19,” the CDC says. Note: Teachers and childcare workers will be prioritized first in this group.
- Group 4: Adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness.
- Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions (cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others).
- Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings.
- Essential workers who are not yet vaccinated: Those who work in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (i.e. construction), finance (i.e. bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, public safety (i.e. engineers) and public health workers.
- Group 5: Everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination.
Mecklenburg County is experiencing ‘critical community spread’: NCDHHS’ county alert system categorizes each county by color— yellow, significant spread; orange, substantial spread; or red, critical spread. 61 counties are in the ‘red’ zone.
Where things stand:
- Schools are reopening. CMS will resumed in-person learning for elementary students, K-8 students, and some students with disabilities on February 15. Middle and high school students will go back on February 22. [Go deeper]
- The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been identified in Mecklenburg County. It’s believed to be more contagious than other variants, but COVID-19 vaccines are still expected to be effective in protecting against B.1.1.7. [Go deeper]
- Mecklenburg County reported its first death of a child from COVID-19. In a briefing Jan. 19, county health director Gibbie Harris confirmed that the patient was under 18, but declined to provide additional details.
- To-go cocktails are now allowed. Governor Cooper signed a new executive order that lets restaurants and bars to sell to-go cocktails, creating an additional revenue source for many struggling businesses. [Go deeper]
- The statewide mask mandate was tightened in November to require masks indoors whenever you’re with people outside your household. It also gives law enforcement the ability to cite individuals and businesses that fail to comply. [Read executive order]
- Know where to get tested. Here’s the Agenda guide to Covid tests. Expect a longer wait at some testing sites as the surge has led to an increase in the number of people getting tested.
- Remember these preventative steps: Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing, and stay home if you feel sick. More from the CDC here.
By the numbers:
- 93,233. Known cases in Mecklenburg County.
- 833,423. Known cases in North Carolina.
- 1,892. Number of COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in North Carolina. In Mecklenburg County an average of 286 COVID patients were hospitalized at an acute care facility over the last week, representing a decrease over the past two weeks.
- 6.2%. Percentage of positive cases in the state. In Mecklenburg, the percentage of positive cases is 9.1%.
- 10,766. Deaths associated with coronavirus in N.C., including 838 in the county. All but 20 deaths in Mecklenburg were among adults with underlying chronic illnesses.